London Fire Brigade must do more to fully address failings from Grenfell
The London Fire Brigade still has more work to do to fully address its failings from the Grenfell Tower fire, a new report has found.
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HMICFRS found that the London Fire Brigade has made good progress, but three and a half years since the fire, there is still a significant amount of work to do.
HMICFRS was impressed by the London Fire Brigade’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which it said had affected the brigade’s ability to implement some of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s recommendations.
Today’s report found the brigade is inspecting more high-rise residential buildings more often, with the brigade on target to review the safety of all such buildings in London by the end of the year.
It also found that the brigade’s new leadership was committed to taking action, and that there was a sustained effort to understand the lessons from the fire.
However, the inspection by HMICFRS revealed that the London Fire Brigade has only completed four of the 29 recommendations it reviewed, with seven on track and 18 delayed – including a delay to transition from “stay put” to “get out” advice. The brigade expects to complete a further 17 recommendations by March 2021.
The inspectorate said the London Fire Brigade needs to better coordinate its plans to act on the inquiry’s recommendations, so both the brigade and the public are reassured that if an incident as catastrophic as Grenfell were to happen again, the response would be much better.
HM Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services Matt Parr said:
“The catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire fundamentally changed how fire services across the UK – and indeed the world – respond to fires in high-rise buildings. The London Fire Brigade has recognised the scale of the changes needed to address its failings from that tragic night, but it still has much more work to do.
“I am encouraged by the brigade’s progress, especially over the last year, and we know the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some unavoidable delays. However, there is still a very long way to go – particularly on training for fires in high-rise residential buildings. As it stands, we are not clear how this work will be completed.
“The London Fire Brigade must now act quickly to show it has learned the lessons from Grenfell – not only to reassure victims, survivors and their families, but to ensure public safety.”
HMICFRS found that a new policy for responding to fires at high-rise buildings, advising people to “get out” rather than “stay put” where it was appropriate to do so, had been delayed by 11 months – although incident commanders were able to use their discretion to use the new policy before it had been formally adopted.
The inspectorate said that arrangements for practical staff training exercises on high-rise buildings were not yet in place.
HMICFRS has identified several areas for improvement for the London Fire Brigade. These include:
- Better management of risks and action plans to enable faster implementation of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s recommendations
- Establishing effective assurance processes so the brigade’s leaders can be confident that operational practice is improving, and that its response to a similar fire would be vastly improved
- Providing practical training exercises at high-rise buildings for incident commanders to use new working practices, such as updated evacuation and rescue policies
Other recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that have not yet been implemented include amending policies to clearly distinguish between callers who are seeking advice and callers who are trapped and need rescuing, and providing a dedicated communication link between the senior officer in the control room and the incident commander at the site of the fire.
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- For further information, the HMICFRS Press Office can be contacted from 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday on 07836 217729 or HMICPressOffice@hmicfrs.gov.uk.
- Our out-of-hours Press Office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.
- The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 claimed 72 lives. An independent Grenfell Tower Inquiry, chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, was set up in 2017 to examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the fire.
- The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report was published in October 2019. In August 2020, the Home Secretary asked HMICFRS to review the London Fire Brigade’s progress against the recommendations from the Phase 1 report.
- HMICFRS carried out this inspection virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included focus groups, interviews, reviewing documents and an online survey of the London Fire Brigade’s staff. No conclusions were drawn from the survey alone.
- In December 2019, HMICFRS published a report on the efficiency and effectiveness of the London Fire Brigade, as part of our first inspections of all fire and rescue services in England.